Sodexo at the National Geographic Society Headquarters is leading the way for corporate dining facilities to increase green practices by implementing sustainable initiatives in their kitchen. Thanks to the efforts of their kitchen team, led by General Manager Laura Monto, they started a food recovery program and became Food Recovery Verified on November 21, 2017. Their recovery program advances the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation’s mission to reduce hunger, and the National Geographic Society’s aim to achieve Zero Waste.
The kitchen staff has worked hard to reconfigure the way they store and label recovered food in order to maximize their donations and ensure the integrity and safety of the food. Monto made clear just how much the kitchen staff values the food they prepare and serve:“[I]t’s wrong to throw good food away,” she said. “It’s just so thankless.”
Sodexo at the National Geographic Society started donating food in partnership with Food Rescue US, a non-profit organization that provides an efficient and free, solution to food waste. In 2011, Food Rescue US launched an application that allows donors to schedule pick ups with volunteer drivers, who take the food to receiving agencies that same day. Food Rescue US has a strong presence in the Washington, D.C. area–though they operate nationally–and serves as a link between D.C. restaurants, including the National Geographic Society’s kitchen, and food insecure people throughout the city.
Since starting the food recovery program and becoming Food Recovery Verified, Monto says she has witnessed a change in behavior among the kitchen staff. “Everybody has compassion in the kitchen now,” Monto said.“We keep each other on track.” She attributes this transition to the connection felt between her staff and their community after seeing photos of the individuals receiving food donations from their kitchen. “[There’s] more respect for the food, because we know this is really going somewhere; this is important,” Monto observed. She wants to continue building local connections by inspiring other kitchens in the Washington, D.C. area to start recovery programs as well.
For Sodexo at the National Geographic Society, reducing hunger is part of its holistic approach to Zero Waste. Monto estimates that the recovery program has already reduced the kitchen’s compost by at least 30 percent. The head chef is focused on reducing that number even further by finding ways to use more food trim, the edible food scraps that are not regularly used, while also creating plant-based menu offerings with lower environmental impacts. The dining facility is also eliminating single-use plastics including everything from drink bottles and cutlery to yogurt cups, by switching to bamboo utensils and water in aluminum cans.
By pairing sustainability and food waste reduction with efforts to fight hunger, Sodexo at the National Geographic Society is changing how corporate dining treats food. Their care and intentionality serves as a foundation to bring companies and organizations together to reduce food waste.